The Manor of Bradford


Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire


In the Saxon period Bradford must have been part of the extensive estates which had been conquered from the British natives following the collapse of Roman rule. They were the property of the King of Wessex in the early days and they lay in a frontier zone with the competing kingdom of Mercia.

Eadred, King of England, bequeathed Bradford to the Abbey of St Mary (known as Nunnaminster) in Winchester when he died in nearby Frome on 23rd November 955. The monastery had been failing and needed an injection of funds.

However, only 46 years later, in the millennium year 1001, King Æthelred II gave the cenobium (monastery) and the estate of Bradford to the Abbey of Shaftesbury in Dorset, which housed the remains of his half-brother Eadweard (St Edward the Martyr), in whose death his mother and he may have been implicated. The recent death of his mother Ælfthryth (Elfrida), Edward’s step-mother, in 1000/1001 may have been an influence on his action. His stated intention was for Bradford to be a refuge for the nuns and the remains in case of Danish raids into Dorset. It is not known if Nunnaminster had held the manor in the time since 955 and if so, why Æthelred transferred ownership to Shaftesbury, other than his concern for the safety of Edward’s bones.

The estate comprised what became the large ancient parish of Bradford (the modern parishes of Atworth, Bradford, Holt, Limpley Stoke, South Wraxall and Winsley) and Wingfield. A copy of the charter exists and details the boundary of the estate. The abbey must also have received the Bradford Hundred, which it was holding by the time of Domesday Book in 1086. By 1086 various pieces -Budbury, Cumberwell, Wingfield, Wittenham- were in other hands, although the abbey later regained the Budbury estate. Domesday Book also says that the Manor of Kelston in Somerset was a part of the Abbey’s estate of Bradford. Possibly other possessions of the Abbey were managed from Bradford; for example Liddington, near Swindon, which provided major grazing land for sheep on its chalk downland. The Abbey only directly farmed a portion of the land -the demesne land- the rest was leased to others as various sub-manors.

After the dissolution of Shaftesbury Abbey in 1539, King Henry VIII gave a part of the land to the newly-created Dean & Chapter of Bristol Cathedral. This land formed what was called the Prebendal Manor. The Crown kept the Lay Manor until Queen Elizabeth leased it to the Earl of Pembroke in 1570 and then in 1576 she granted it to Sir Francis Walsingham and it descended through his family until sold to Paul Methuen in 1774. The lordship of the manor currently belongs to the Hobhouse family of Monkton Farleigh, but it is nowadays really just a title.

> Map of the Manor in 1001

> The Charter of 1001

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